These are uncertain times in St. Louis.
With the future of head coach Ken Hitchcock up in the air, the club will now put all restricted and unrestricted free agents on the backburner in order to deal with this summer’s No. 1 priority — re-signing Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.
“We are not going to be active in signing other players until we get him taken care of,” Blues GM Doug Armstrong said, per the Post-Dispatch. “If it means allowing players to go to free agency, if it means making players sweat it out on what their deal’s going to be, he’s the priority for us.
“I’d like to partner with him, I’d like to partner with Mike [Liut, Tarasenko’s agent]. If it happens in May, great. If it happens in June, great. If it happens in August, great. He’s the primary guy.”
To be fair, the Blues don’t have a ton of other decisions to make this summer. RFA goalie Jake Allen is No. 2 on the priority chart after Tarasenko, and the club has suggested it’d like to try and get something done with RFA d-man Roberto Bortuzzo.
As for UFAs, longtime Blue Barret Jackman’s future is in doubt. Armstrong said last week the club has “no answer” at the moment to questions about re-signing Jackman, which is obviously tied to Tarasenko. Trade deadline pickups Olli Jokinen, Marcel Goc and Zbynek Michalek would appear to be lower on the aforementioned priority chart.
Armstrong isn’t divulging much about the status of negotiations with Liut, but did reveal a few nuggets. One, there is zero chance No. 91 leaves via an offer sheet, with Armstrong saying it’ll be “easy” for the club to match whatever’s put forth. Armstrong also said the deal will be contingent upon next year’s salary cap, and that — in keeping with the deal struck last summer for forward Jaden Schwartz — Tarasenko will be hamstrung a bit by his RFA status (lest we forget Tarasenko just wrapped his entry-level deal, which paid a base salary of $900,000.)
“He’s going to be very well compensated on a second contract,” Armstrong explained. “But you make more money when you have more rights. He doesn’t have unrestricted free agency rights and that’s just the nature of the beast.
“That’s the business. He gets it, Mike gets it, I get it.”